Journalist fined TT$20,000 - First conviction under controversial Life Sport Programme
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):
Magistrate Christine Charles has imposed a TT$20,000 (one TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) fine on a newspaper journalist who pleaded guilty last week to unlawfully benefiting from a contract awarded to his company under the controversial but now-defunct multimillion-dollar Life Sport Programme that led to the resignation of a government minister a few years ago.
Senior sports reporter Walter Alibey appeared before the magistrate on Tuesday for sentencing and was also ordered to repay the TT$33,000 he illegally recovered in Value Added Tax (VAT) although the company he owned had received a contract from the Life Sport Programme, and was not registered with the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR).
The journalist, a father of four and director of Agro Aggressive Organisation and Maintenance Services, received a government contract for TT$832,703.50 on July 1, 2013, to carry out refurbishment and maintenance work at the Valencia Community Centre by the Ministry of Sport.
The company issued an invoice in the sum of $253,000 to the sport ministry for payment, which was approved and received on September 6, 2013.
It was later revealed that Agro Aggressive was not registered for VAT despite billing the ministry $33,000 for VAT on its invoice.
Alibey was spared a jail term by Magistrate, Charles, who told him that as a well-qualified person academically, it was no excuse to say he relied on bad advice.
The convicted man was given until Friday to pay TT$5,000 and the balance of the fine by January 30. If he fails to pay the fine, he will be sentenced to two years in prison.
ORDERED TO REPAY
He was also ordered to repay to the BIR by March 29 or spend two years in prison if he fails to do so.
This is the first conviction under the controversial Life Sport Programme that rocked the then People's Partnership government and led to the resignation of then Sports Minister Anil Roberts.
In October this year, a High Court judge quashed the Ministry of Finance's central audit committee (CAC) 2014 report which led to the termination of the controversial Life Sport Programme.
Justice Mira Dean-Armorer ruled then that several former senior members of the Sport Ministry were not afforded the opportunity to be heard before the report was made public.